Laser Etching Beautiful Wood Carved Coffee Thermoses

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design Woodworking Workshop
Laser Etching Beautiful Wood Carved Coffee Thermoses

From left to right, Disney castle, Vitruvian Batman, Hamilton silhouette, Hogwarts castle, and Vitruvian Optimus Prime. The first four are made out of cherry, and Optimus is made out of walnut.


It all starts with my least favorite and most stressful part of woodworking – the glue-up. Typically, this is the next-to-last step in the process, but because I couldn’t find turning blanks that were large enough / logs, I was stuck with buying 1x walnut and 5/4 cherry. This was a pain because it turns out that glue makes them slide around a ton, so a lot of cursing happened. Before gluing up, I ran them through the jointer and then hand planed all the surfaces with a No. 4 plane to create as strong of a connection as possible. See how there is glue oozing out on all the sides – you want to make sure that this happens at least a little bit to ensure that the glue gets everywhere.


I let the glue set overnight and then knocked the corners off with the jointer (this can also be done with a bandsaw). I wanted to keep the blanks as big as possible – even though the finished dimension is just over 3″, having the extra room meant that even if I hollowed the insides out too much, I didn’t risk blowing through. I forgot to grab a picture of the next step, but I put the blanks on the lathe and then cut both ends off to make sure that I had a truly flat surface to mount the plate to.


The smallest dimension for the inside is 2-1/8″, but the largest Forstner bit that I could get my grubby little hands on was 2″. This wasn’t a huge issue, but it meant that I had to hollow out a bit as I went or else the chuck would just get caught and not allow the bit to penetrate anymore. The other side of the blank is screwed to the plate – this comes with your router, and is typically used for turning bowls. I had to get the opening to a total depth of 5-3/8″ (height of the metal insert, which is pictured a couple steps from now), and the interior dimensions tapered from 3″-2-1/8″.


This was the longest part of the process, though I greatly increased my speed with each cup. For the first one, it took around 6 hours to completely turn it, but I got down to just under 2 under by the 5th.

Now to cut the bottom of with a flush-cut hand saw and then sand it down on the belt sander to make sure that it didn’t tip

See all that sawdust? That’s from one cup. Note to anyone interested in trying a turning project – use the face shield when roughing out your exterior silhouette unless you want to get a sawdust facial. Also, pockets are not your friends if you want to leave that sawdust at the shop.


Now came the really fun part – using a laser cutter with rotary attachment to get this engraved! I knew the height of the wooden part and the diameter of the cup, so I just arbitrarily decided on a height and witdh that looked good. To make the designs readable by the laser cutter, I took some jpegs off the internet (oh yea, btw I totally pirated other people’s artwork to make this happen and didn’t give credit, so I’m kind of the worst) and converted them to bitmaps using CorelDraw.

Editors note: We’ve found the artists and linked to their pages for credit.


First one off! Hogwarts castle. When it comes off the etching is kind of sticky, but hitting it with some sandpaper took care of that.


So I really love Danish Oil – I just think that it brings out the beauty of the wood, and can be used as the final finish depending on how your project will be used. Just follow the instructions on the can.


So pretty after their danish oil bath.

We’re not 100% sure, but it looks like this Hamilton image originated here

Next one on the docket was inspired by Hamilton, because one of the gift recipients loves that show.

vitruvian prime by Barry Neeson

Next up was Optimus Prime as the Vitruvian man. I found this online and really dug it, and this gift recipient has been collecting transformers since they were a toddler.


Adding some danish oil really made the walnut look awesome. If you are planning on laser engraving walnut, make sure that you find a relatively light board or the engraving won’t be as clear.

vitruvian Bat design by Samiel

Because I loved how they turned out, I made one for myself.

Each of these got three coats of oil-based polyurethane to make sure that they could actually be functional.

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